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Shearwater Masterpieces at the Walter Anderson Museum
Example of Shearwater Pottery.

OCEAN SPRINGS.- The Walter Anderson Museum of Art presents the exhibit Shearwater Masterpieces The Hogan Collection through September 3. Christopher and Kristen Hogan have been collecting Shearwater pottery for the past few years to use and to enjoy. When Hurricane Katrina came, their home, along with thousands of others, was totally destroyed, but the walls and cases holding this collection remained and most of the pottery was found intact. They carefully took it out piece by piece, washed it, wrapped it, and packed it in boxes, and brought it to the Walter Anderson Museum of Art to share with the entire coast for several years. This exhibition is a celebration of that collection and its miraculous survival. Such an action was fitting and timely. Not only did most of the Hogan’s beautiful Shearwater works survive, but the Museum that was established to honor the Shearwater founders, also survived. As William Faulkner said in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech “Man will not only survive, he will endure.” The works on display here are symbolic of that endurance. A few pieces reflect the ravages of Katrina and the loss or brokenness of many other art works across the coast. But the rest stand triumphant in their elegance, their humor, and their humility.

Any collection mirrors the taste and discerning eye, and even the age of its collectors. The Hogans have built a strong core of art works from the founding generation of Andersons – Peter, Walter, and Mac - when pieces became available, and they systematically added works from later generations done more recently.

Now, the throwing and decorating has passed to the second and third generations. Peter’s son Jim is Shearwater’s potter and Jim’s son, Peter Wade, works closely with him. Peter’s daughter Patricia Findeisen has become one of the main decorators who paints symbolic, enigmatic figures, and Walter’s grandson, Chris Stebly, uses a playful linear style in his ceramic decoration and some of his paintings. Behind these few names are many other family members and friends who continue to make the business work over the years.

Often works are made from molds of some of the most striking carved pots and sculpted figures. A replica pot or figure can be cast from the mold and painted, but regardless of whether they are thrown, sculpted, or cast, each one becomes distinctive by its glaze or by its decoration. You may see more than one cat with the same form (made by Walter Anderson) but painted differently each time (by Patricia Findeisen).

The work of a mind and hand often creates a unique and beautiful object. Sometimes these things are so powerful that we elevate them to the status of “art” or exceptional craft. However, it is the eye of the viewer (the collector or the museum) that registers the object as being significant and necessary to save for posterity. They are the other half of the circle of creativity — the appreciator, the supporter, the sustainer. Without them, the arts could not survive.

The Gulf Coast is rich with creative people, especially in the visual arts, with their works resting in homes and businesses. Many of these unique works are gone, and we mourn their passing. But they have enriched us and created a culture which focuses on the beauty found in our backyards or boat trips. Though modified for a time, these plants, animals, seas and skies still identify this part of the world, and our eyes that are so tired of the broken things will again register the artist’s vision. Then, that culture and the surviving work will become even more refreshing and fulfilling not only to us here is this place, but to the world who watches us.

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